Crankbait crazy - Major League Fishing

Crankbait crazy

April 10, 2002 • Dave Landahl • Archives

Where walleye fishing is concerned, crankbaits are indispensable part of fishing arsenal

Whether you are a seasoned angler or a novice at chasing the wily walleye, you need to add a large supply of crankbaits to your walleye fishing tackle box. There is no doubt about it. Crankbaits catch walleye whether you are pulling them behind a planer board, a three-way rig or just letting your favorite plug out on a flatline behind your boat. These hard-bodied baitfish imitators catch walleye from spring through the fall.

“I would have to say pulling crankbaits is my most productive way to catch walleye,” says Lund pro Dwain White from Oregon, Illinois. “I know that by pulling one of the dozens of crankbaits in my tackle box with a variety of techniques, I can consistently catch walleye, whether I am fishing one of the Great Lakes fisheries like the Detroit River or Saginaw Bay, an inland fishery like Lake Winnebago or a smaller river or lake. Crankbaits catch walleye.”

Pulling plugs behind planer boards hook walleye when traditional methods fail.

“So many anglers make the mistake of only targeting walleye in deeper water along the bottom,” says White. “Sure, you can find walleye holding on a deep rock point during the summer or fall, but so many walleye suspend throughout the various seasons that the novice fishing the deep water along the bottom misses loads of fish. Using a planer board to troll a crankbait like a Reef Runner, Hot-N-Tot, Wally Diver or Thunderstick can hook these suspended fish that are cruising closer to the surface.”

Planer boards, three-way rigs and flatlines provide plenty of walleye fishing options

The basic planer board set-up consists of two to four rods, depending on how many anglers are in your boat and the specific regulations in your area. You will want to place a snap weight, which is a removable weight using a release similar to those used by downrigger fishermen, about 50 feet back from the planer board with about 50 feet of line left to the crankbait. You can vary your depths by changing your weight or by changing the type of crankbait you are using.

Anglers fishing on inland rivers can hook some of the biggest walleye their favorite streams have to offer by pulling plugs behind a three-way rig.

“One of the most common ways to present a crankbait for catching walleye is with a three-way rig,” says White. “This is a particularly effective way for catching walleye while they are holding in deeper holes or bends in a river. My favorite crankbaits to pull under these conditions are shallow diving Reef Runners, Floating Rapalas or Thundersticks. If the water is clear, stick with a natural minnow color with a dark back with silver or white sides. If the water is stained, firetiger, orange or chartreuse are good color choices.”

The flatline method is a simple and effective way for beginners to learn how to pull plugs.

“If you are a novice angler and all of the various rigs are a bit confusing, you can try the old flatline method of trolling,” says White. “It is a very simple method to use and is very effective under the right conditions. You can either simply let out line behind your boat and fish whatever depth you crankbait will reach or you can attach a weight to your line to allow the lure to run deeper.”

These three methods just scratch the surface on how to present a crankbait to catch walleye. Other methods of presentation include hand-lining, lead-core and even the old bass fishing approach of casting and retrieving will work under the right conditions.

If you are inclined to be more of a cast-and-retrieve angler, target walleye in the shallow water. Rivers are some of the best bodies of water for you to cast crankbaits to hook walleye. In the spring when the walleye are beginning their spawning run, you can cast lures like suspending Rogues or Rapalas in water as shallow as a foot or two and hook big walleye before or after they spawn while they are on the shallow sand or gravel flats. The best action will occur after dark. You can find walleye actively feeding on baitfish in these areas throughout the summer months and well into the fall. In fact, most of the largest walleye in your local fisheries will be most active after dark.

So if catching more walleye is on your agenda this season, belly up to the crankbait bar and load your tackle box with plenty of plugs in a variety of sizes and colors.